The Russian Tourist Trap

Leif Parsons

Is Miami is falling victim to the U.S.'s sanctions on Russia, and alienating some of the city's best guests?

Since Russia’s rising moneyed class is sweet on Miami, how its tropical playground fares with the sanctions on the troubled country (a cash cow) is being closely watched. Svetlana Ianovski, founder of RSB Travels, a luxury tour operator based in Miami with offices in Moscow and Kiev, noticed a downturn beginning in March. Following a robust growth period that averaged 30 percent annually since 2006, her spring sales decreased by 12 percent. “Whether due to propaganda or visa cancellations, Art Basel reservations, which are usually full much earlier in summer, only began picking up in September,” says Ianovski, who’s accustomed to booking tables at Zuma, as well as sitting down with the St. Regis Bal Harbour’s wine director to select varietals that appeal to Russian guests. (They’re the hotel’s biggest spenders.)

Many in the tourism industry be­­lieve the Russians will hold on dearly to their beloved Miami pilgrimage cen­tered around New Year’s, and ac­­cording to the Miami-Dade Aviation Department, Russian airline Aeroflot is adding a fourth weekly flight in December. “They see value in Miami in its concen­tration of shopping and nightlife,” says research firm YouGov’s vice chairman Jim Taylor. “But the question is, can they get the visa to come?”